Saturday, October 22, 2011

Writing and Convalescing

It's been a while since I've posted, but I've been working hard to get three books ready for release in a few months, so I've let the blog slide a bit.

Funny story, though: After my last posting about getting out and enjoying nature, I was doing just that one night. And at the top of a beautiful mountain, three miles from the trailhead, I tripped and fell big time. I felt like Homer Simpson bouncing down the mountain. Luckily I didn't smack my head against a rock, but I did get all scratched up. Then near the bottom of the trail, I twisted my ankle!

Of course, as soon as I got home, all covered with dust and blood, my kids all busted up laughing. I didn't get much sympathy.

Then last month, I was on the same trail and messed up my hip somehow. After ignoring it for a month, I finally went to the doctor, who reminded me I'm not young anymore. He made me agree to stop goofing off until it heals.

So now the autumn weather is absolutely perfect, and I'm stuck at home sitting around. At least I'm forced to spend more time writing now!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Touching 天堂 (Paradise)

A few days ago, I went mountain biking with my son and nephew around Navajo Lake. It's a beautiful area high in the Dixie National Forest, around 9000' (2800 m). The sun hung low, casting long shadows and exaggerating the colors. The terrain constantly changed from alpine forest to red rock desert to groves of white-trunked aspens with their fluttering leaves. Having never rode there, we didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the funnest rides I've ever been on.

My son the track star rode in front and set the rigorous pace, soaring along a roller coaster single track. At one point, we blasted through the trees into a moonscape of black lava with the trail weaving through otherworldly rocks—it was totally unexpected and beautiful. Then at the end of our ride, we met up with others in my family who were fishing off the shores of the lake, just as my younger daughter caught a nice 10" (25 cm) rainbow trout—which she made me clean.

While riding, we had a conversation about how cool it is to do that kind of activity. We're surrounded by beauty in our world, and it's so easy to get out and enjoy it. Yet there are so many people that choose to spend their time in front of the TV.

柔柔 on Big Rock, also called Elephant Rock
I'm lucky to live near mountains that provide a wealth of outdoor recreation. From my house, I can drive ten minutes to mountains that rise nearly 5000' (1500 m) from the foothills—and those foothills are already at 5000'! I often spend time running, hiking, and biking in those hills, alone or with family or friends. On two recent evenings, I happened to go up at sunset as the orange sun dove through purple clouds into the Great Salt Lake. I watched a misty rain float between me and the sun, sending down silky wisps that brushed across pines, aspens, oak and maple. White-tailed deer foraged in the underbrush—deer that seem so graceful but scare the heck out you when they bolt unexpectedly! I saw tiny owls take flight with their prey from the trail—completely, totally silent.

Many people believe in some sort of paradise—天堂—we can attain after the travails of this life. I don't know what it will look like, but I imagine that we can briefly touch 天堂 by getting off our butts and looking around.

This posting wouldn't be fair, however, if we don't mention the many people who are unable to get outside due to physical or societal limitations. My friend lives in beautiful Kupang Indonesia. Despite the 天堂-like surroundings, the lives of many people there are very difficult.  When you're struggling just to get food to eat, it's hard to spend time hiking for pleasure.

But for those people who are perfectly able to get outside and enjoy what we have, but are just unwilling or lazy, think for a minute about what you're missing—you don't need to wait until the next life to touch a bit of 天堂 right here!

(Photos by my son Aarim, and my wife 潔明.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

4:00 A.M. Gumption

One of my favorite shows is Mosquito Coast, starring Harrison Ford, which came out in the mid-eighties. Ford portrays an eccentric inventor fed up with American consumerism. He decides to quit his job, buy a piece of land on the coast of a Latin American country, and move his family there. While deciding whether or not to go through with this, he says something like, "The jungle. Not ordinary gumption, but 4 o'clock in the morning courage."

That line has stuck with me all these years. We often make plans like, "I'm going to get up at 6 a.m. and work in the garden tomorrow before going to work." Then when our alarm goes off, we hit the snooze and get seven more minutes of sleep. Then four snooze-hits later, we realize it's too late to do any gardening, so we just get up and go to work.

I think if we all had a little more 4 a.m. gumption, we'd all get a lot more done. We'd take that trip we've been wanting to take. We'd lose those extra pounds we've been trying to lose. We'd build that dollhouse for our daughter that she's been asking for.

I can't say I've always been a 4 a.m. gumption person. In fact, I've often taken the safer route in life. But many times I have tried to push myself, even when I thought it was pointless to do so. (Like continuing to write even after multiple rejections from agents and editors.)

This morning, my son's high school cross country running team had a workout at 7 a.m. They're all well-trained runners, while I'm a middle-aged dude who got back into the sport just last year. At 6 a.m., I mustered my 4 a.m. gumption, got up and ate granola with soy milk, then joined them on a five mile hilly course. I didn't even finish last! And I certainly have a lot of respect for the young freshman girl who persevered while the older runners were far ahead of her. She finished last, but she finished the run—and that's what matters.